Donald Trump is now under fire for mocking a New York Times reporter with a congenital condition during a campaign rally in South Carolina earlier this week. However, the presidential candidate said he has no idea what the journalist looks like.
"I have no idea who this reporter, Serge Kovaleski is, what he looks like or his level of intelligence," Trump said in a statement. During his speech in South Carolina, Trump appeared jerking his arms in front of his body, in apparent mockery of the journalist's movements.
Serge Kovaleski has a physical condition called arthrogryposis, which limits the flexibility of his arms and hands.
Also, Trump also accused Kovaleski of "using his disability to grandstand."
The gesture was more personal for Kovaleski, who religiously covered Trump while reporting for the New York Daily News from 1987 to 1993. During this period, Trump was struggling from several financial setbacks.
In fact, Kovaleski said he and Trump are calling each other on a first-name basis. "I've interviewed him in his office. I've talked to him at press conferences," he added.
Trump's insensitive remark sparked an onslaught of criticism from many journalists and disability advocates around the world.
On Thursday, The New York Times issued a statement, which says it is "outrageous" that Trump ridiculed the appearance of their reporter.
"@sergenyt is one of the best reporters - and best people - I know. This is despicable," said Don Van Natta Jr., ESPN writer, via Twitter.
For the real estate tycoon, he stressed the gesture and remark had nothing to do with the reporter's disability. He also denied having known the journalist, "somebody at the financially failing and totally biased New York Times said that."
During his campaign rally, Trump clarifies his previous controversial statement that says thousands of New Jersey Muslims celebrated 9/11 attack. However, Kovaleski noted that that no one says there were thousands of people celebrating.
Trump was also condemned last month for his disparaging comments about former Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina's physical appearance.
"Look at that face!" Trump said in a statement from Rolling Stone, and he added, "Can you imagine that the face of our next president?!"
The Republican presidential candidate later explained that he is not referring to Fiona's appearance instead he attacks her "persona".
On the other hand, an advocacy group advised Trump to have some sensitivity training.
It socially unacceptable to mock someone's disability as part of the national political discourse, said Jay Ruderman from Ruderman Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities to have education and employment.